I love pho. I originally got hooked on it when I was living in San Francisco and you could buy it on maybe 10% of the street corners city-wide, and have continued to eat it regularly everywhere I moved afterwards. However, since I moved to Eugene, Oregon, it’s been harder to find restaurants that serve it and I’ve had less money to spend eating out. Fortunately, after extensive experimentation, I’ve devised a recipe that I can make at home that is, perhaps, lacking in complexity compared to some that I’ve had, but is quite delicious in its own right and can be quickly and easily – and cheaply – prepared at home.
Now, you might ask, why am I writing about food now? I thought this was a video game and arts blog! There’s a very delicious and satisfying answer to your question. Look: Daily writing is hard. Every day I sit here and think “what idea am I most enthusiastic about at this moment?” And at this moment I’m hungry, so I’m going to roll with that – dinner roll with that.
I’ve got it cooking right now so I can take photos as I work on it.
1/2 lb thin-sliced beef – sirloin, ribeye, or chuck work well, ideally either something tender or fatty. (Preferably fresh, but frozen is fine. If you freeze beef for this purpose, try to freeze it in individual flat packages so that it’s easy to use and thaws quickly later)
1-2 thin slices of beef brisket
5-8 small pieces of thoroughly washed honeycomb tripe – I run hot water over it and rub it carefully with my hands to pull out any surface grease or excessively fatty bits. Usually two or three passes with filling the bowl with hot water and draining it out is enough – when the water comes away unclouded they’re ready to use.
3 Vietnamese-style meat balls (frozen)
3-3.5 cups water
1 Knorr’s Gelatin Beef Stock
1/2 package thin/medium Thai/Vietnamese rice noodles
Several sprigs of cilantro, chopped
2 green onions
1 slice of lime (There’s no lime in the photo because I ran out. I substituted a bit of lemon juice but I really recommend lime)
Chinese five-spice blend
Boil water, add a couple of hefty dashes of salt, add tripe and brisket and leave to simmer. If you don’t like or can’t get tripe or brisket, try to get some beef gristle or other fatty bits to simmer and add some body to the broth.
Simmer 30 minutes at lowish heat, whatever keeps a bubble going in a covered pot without it boiling over. You can skip this step if there’s no tripe, but the broth tends to be better with it included.
Boil a few cups water in a separate container (I use an electric kettle) and pour it over the noodles in a big bowl to soften them. This takes a few minutes, but don’t leave them for too long or they get mushy. Once the texture seems alright, dump the water into the sink – I just use chopsticks to keep the noodles from falling out but if you want to use a strainer that’s fine too.
Chop up green onions and cilantro. Once the 30 minutes simmering and the noodle soaking are done, add the green part of the onions and the cilantro to the pot and the white parts of the onions to the bowl with the noodles. Add the beef stock and Vietnamese meatballs to the pot, then add a dash of Chinese five-spice. If you’re using frozen beef add that now too, otherwise add the raw beef to the bowl. Increase the heat under the pot to medium-high, stir regularly to break up the beef stock gelatin. If there’s frozen beef in the pot, try to pry it apart with the chopsticks to make sure the center isn’t frozen when you eat it. Squirt however much Sriracha you like onto the noodles and squeeze a slice of lime over them, and once the pot reaches a boil again pour it over the noodles and serve.
This makes a kind of huge portion since I’m a hungry boy. If you’re less hungry you can probably split this just fine between two people, or can adjust the recipe as needed to make a smaller portion size.